Drivers would pay for trauma network

Under a proposal in a Maryland House of Delegates panel, the state would collect a fee from its 3.7 million drivers to help subs

Under a proposal in a Maryland House of Delegates panel, the state would collect a fee from its 3.7 million drivers to help subs

February 07, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

A Maryland House of Delegates panel chaired by Del. John P. Donoghue is developing a plan that would require every licensed driver to help subsidize the state's trauma network.

Donoghue, D-Washington, said the plan would cost drivers less than a penny a day.

"The average family who understands that on the way to the beach they want a trauma center, I think they'll be willing to pay less than a penny a day to make sure that happens," he said.

Donoghue is working on the trauma center legislation this session as chair of the House Health and Government Operations Committee's subcommittee on health facilities, equipment and products.


House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, introduced the bill this session to address a statewide problem that erupted in Washington County last year.

Washington County Hospital closed its trauma center for four months last summer because there weren't enough surgeons to staff it around-the-clock.

In order to reopen the trauma center, the hospital agreed to pay surgeons $1.7 million a year in on-call costs which cannot be recovered through hospital rates.

Under the latest proposal, the state would collect a fee from the state's 3.7 million drivers, Donoghue said.

There are about 91,000 licensed drivers in Washington County, according to Cheron Wicker, spokeswoman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

The money raised would go into a fund administered by the Health Services Cost Review Commission and the Maryland Health Care Commission, Donoghue said.

Trauma centers, including the one in Washington County, could apply for reimbursement for surgeons' on-call costs and the cost of operating on uninsured and underinsured patients.

Busch had initially proposed a $2 per vehicle charge on insurance carriers to fund trauma centers. But that would have raised only half of the estimated $12 million to $16 million needed.

On Wednesday, insurance industry lobbyists told Donoghue's subcommittee that such a tax would not apply to self-insured fleets and uninsured motorists.

It would have required insurance companies to set up a system to collect the tax, which would have been a burden, especially on small insurers, the lobbyists said.

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